Identifying agents of change for sustainable land governance

O. Ravaka Andriamihaja*, Florence Metz, Julie G. Zaehringer, Manuel Fischer, Peter Messerli

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)
224 Downloads (Pure)


Sustainable land governance in a telecoupled world is currently a challenge. Distant actors, institutions, and interactions shape local land uses and are assumed to affect sustainable development in critical ways as they exert new and often additional claims on land and trigger adverse local impacts like displacement. Action towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is urgently needed, as are agents of change that will initiate sustainability transformations. However, empirical studies on transformation pathways towards sustainable land governance remain scarce. Moreover, very few studies have addressed the identification of actors through whom such transformation might be achieved. To address this gap, we analysed the likelihood of actors becoming agents of change based on their aims, resources, and relational profiles in the land governance network. Our study focused on Madagascar, a country that manifests unsustainable land governance, with distant actors increasingly influencing local land use. We combined an analysis of agency with social network analysis to disentangle attributes and the transformative potential of different actors involved in land governance in northeastern Madagascar. Our results show that actors have different combinations of aims, resources, and relational profiles. Combined analysis of their agency and social networks enabled us to identify potential agents of change and yielded options for transformation actions through which they can become operational agents of change. Our research contributes to promoting pathways to sustainability transformations where actors with various agency levels and social network assets are empowered to establish sustainable land governance. The combination of agency analysis and social network analysis is an innovative method that helps to advance sustainability science.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104882
JournalLand use policy
Early online date16 Jul 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021


  • Agency analysis
  • Agents of change
  • Madagascar
  • Social network analysis
  • Sustainability transformation
  • Telecoupled land governance


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